More innocent victims caught in traps set on grouse moors

This morning we received the following images from a blog reader showing a young Dipper that had been crushed to death inside a spring trap set across a stream on the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate, a grouse shooting estate in South Lanarkshire.

This particular trap looks to be legally-set to catch species such as stoats and weasels. Although there are strong ethical and welfare concerns about the use of these traps to kill these species (and especially the complete lack of monitoring and reporting) what has happened here is perfectly legal. As per the regulations, the trap is covered by an artificial tunnel and the entry holes at both ends have been restricted to reduce the opportunity for non-target species to enter the tunnel and be caught in the trap.

Clearly, the entrances were insufficiently restricted to prevent this bird entering and being killed, but that is in no way a reflection of bad practice by the estate – the trap operator has followed the rules.

There is no legal requirement for grouse shooting estates to monitor, record or report these deaths. The Scottish Government and its statutory conservation advisory agency (SNH) has no clue about how many of these deaths take place on grouse moors each day/week/month/year.

We’ve blogged about this issue many times before. Sometimes it’s obvious that a trap has been set illegally (i.e. when it hasn’t been placed inside a tunnel) and sometimes it’s less obvious but still illegal, for example when little or no effort has been made to restrict the tunnel entrances.

The RSPB has also had concerns about this issue and today has written a blog (here) and released a video (see below) about a number of cases of what appear to be illegally-set traps on various grouse moors in North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Bowland, all found this year. The RSPB blog highlights what it says are ongoing inconsistencies in how different police forces respond to such crimes and their subsequent decisions about enforcement action/inaction.

35 Responses to “More innocent victims caught in traps set on grouse moors”

  1. 1 Les Wallace
    June 21, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    If you put any new structure like this in an animal’s territory guaranteed it will investigate it to scent mark, look for food or investigate it as a possible shelter/nest. What are the chances that any dippers, ring ouzels or wagtails with one of these traps in their territories will fail to visit it at least once? We need to produce an alternative wildlife guide for the grouse moors which would feature pictures of – adders incinerated by muirburn, dead mountain hares piled in the back of a pick up, snared wildcats, poisoned eagles, pole trapped buzzards, shot hen harriers and the increasing selection of species found in these traps – red squirrel, grouse chick, dipper, ring ouzel…..

    • 2 Alan Cranston
      June 27, 2019 at 9:43 pm

      That’s a good idea. Just a website. The trouble with is that it’s ephemeral. A website with key words and images would be a great resource to us all.

  2. 4 Dr Wu
    June 21, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    Although the trap itself looks legal the practice may not be. I have photographs from Leadhills going back many years of dippers being caught in these traps. As the Wildlife and Countryside Act in Scotland says that it is an offence to ‘intentionally or RECKLESSLY kill, injure or take any wild bird’ it could be argued that they are being reckless as it was likely that a dipper could be caught in that locale. Sadly, no PF was ever willing to test this.

  3. 5 Scm
    June 21, 2019 at 2:29 pm

    It’s unfortunate this happens but if the traps were not there to catch stoates and weasels, how many young chicks and eggs would be killed/taken each year then?
    I would imagine the aggregate of traps versus no traps would be far less deaths in traps.
    But again, there’s always progress which can be made.

    • 6 J .Coogan
      June 21, 2019 at 2:41 pm

      Yea ,I wonder how nature managed for all these hundreds of thousands of years without us?

      • 7 Scm
        June 21, 2019 at 4:57 pm

        Such a stupid reply to a fact that I’ve stated. Not even relevant to my post.

        • 8 Dipper
          June 21, 2019 at 5:47 pm

          Your initial comment was mind numbingly stupid to begin with. You’re comparing natural depredation with a completely unnecessary, and no doubt painful death, motivated purely by greed and selfishness. The fact that you even typed your initial post means you are part of the problem and willing to employ any amount of intellectually excuses to justify your position.

        • 9 J .Coogan
          June 21, 2019 at 7:23 pm

          Yep, the fact that you think this is stupid says everything about your mentality, you are part of the problem. Making a bit of a tit of yourself here Scm.

        • 10 Chris D.
          June 22, 2019 at 10:46 am

          Your stupid comment warranted our replies. Nature can sort things out and keep a balance without any help from cruel traps.

        • 11 sog
          June 22, 2019 at 12:29 pm

          If gamekeepers collected accurate records, perhaps they’d be able to show the proportion of mustelids to other victims. One wonders why they don’t.

      • June 21, 2019 at 8:34 pm

        So true. I wonder how wildlife copes on unkeepeed hills?

    • 13 Les Wallace
      June 21, 2019 at 4:05 pm

      My local dippers manage just fine with weasels, stoats even mink, but I’m not sure they would with these traps.

  4. 14 Greyandblue
    June 21, 2019 at 4:42 pm

    When will humans leave nature alone. Was not the ok to kill hundreds of Ravens given last year, in order to help such birds as this. Hypocritical doesn’t begin to describe the disgusting primitive people who see no problem in using these barbaric and indiscriminate instruments of torture…personally anyone who can happily do so to my mind needs at least psychiatric treatment, or preferably locking up for the sake of all of our safety. !

  5. 15 TonyB
    June 21, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    How can traps like this be legal in this day and age,its no different to putting poisoned bait down-anything could fall victim to it.

  6. 16 Janet Hoptroff
    June 21, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    Surely these sort of traps should NOT be legal. Why weren’t the entrances sufficiently restricted to prevent this bird entering? … and why is there “no legal requirement for grouse shooting estates to monitor, record or report these deaths” !? If nobody knows there’s a problem, then it seems they can literally ‘get away with murder’.

  7. 17 Boaby
    June 21, 2019 at 6:57 pm

    Whilst this trap has had an attempt to restrict the entrance this would only potentially effect animals larger than the target species from entering. It clearly would not stop animals then same size or smaller than the target species from entering.

    I wonder how these traps know the difference between a stoat and a young otter or a red squirrel from a grey or a mink from a pine marten.

    These traps are placed in there hundreds across some of most sensitive habitats and the accumulative effect must have a huge impact.

    Spring traps should be banned

  8. 18 Jimmy
    June 21, 2019 at 8:10 pm

    Live cage traps should only be permitted for the likes of Mink

    • 19 Boaby
      June 22, 2019 at 10:02 am

      Whats wrong with live catch traps for mink which are used very successfully by forestry commission Scotland as part of their water voles project….

      • 20 Iain Gibson
        June 22, 2019 at 11:09 pm

        Obviously FCS have no realistic understanding of predator-prey relationships, like so many rural operatives who are obsessed with killing perceived “vermin.”

        • 21 matthew dalby
          June 24, 2019 at 6:10 am

          There is a need to distinguish between natural and unnatural predator-prey relationships. Since mink are a non-native species it isn’t natural for them to prey on water voles, so this is a genuine case of wild animals being vermin, and has no bearing on whether or not it should be legal to trap native species such as stoats of weasels. Are you trying to justify the mass slaughter of native wildlife on grouse moors by attempting to make a comparison with the (in my opinion) justifiable targeting of a non-native species that is having a serious impact on native wildlife?

          • 22 Iain Gibson
            June 24, 2019 at 11:20 pm

            Matthew, vermin or not vermin is a very loose way of deciding whether a predator is natural or unnatural. All we can say for certain is whether they are native or non-native. In northern Britain, for example, the Mute Swan could be deemed vermin under your definition, because a breeding pair will kill other wildfowl young within their territory, presumably to optimise their own food supply. Coots and Moorhens are particularly susceptible. There is also a human psychological effect in the tendency to blame non-native species without realistic evidence. I have considered the impact of Mink on Water voles for six decades now, and one particularly interesting finding is that the voles have equally significantly declined in areas where there are no signs of the presence of Mink. Yet some of the areas where Water Voles are plentiful also support Mink. However, many naturalists, both amateur and academic, tend to accept any experience they have of Mink’predating Water Voles as normal and universal. It is also the case that most predation studies have chosen easily observed sites, such as riverbanks, which supply easy data. Other habitat types, like fens or reedbeds, hide a multitude of secrets. In the City of Glasgow, recent studies have discovered significant populations of “fossorial” Water Voles which survive in colonies in dry grassland habitats well away from wetlands. These animals are more susceptible to predation by foxes, domestic cats or Peregrines than Mink! I hope you get my point.

  9. 23 Nigel Raby
    June 21, 2019 at 9:19 pm

    Its time these things were banned

  10. 24 Persistence Pays
    June 21, 2019 at 9:52 pm

    This whole situation is farcical. We are told that the trap which caught the Dipper was correctly set. This assumption is based on the simplistic premise that the entrances were apparently sufficiently restricted to prevent non-target species entering. The reality is that the only non-target species which were protected from being caught were those which were too big to get into the tunnel. Anything else, whether of similar critical dimensions to the target species, or smaller, is totally at risk. Given that there is no earthly means of preventing them entering the tunnel, such traps should not be lawful as they represent a totally indiscriminate threat to our smaller wildlife species. Tony8 has already alluded to this point in his comment above.

    I have just checked the BASC Handbook ‘Pest and Predator Control’. It is surprisingly vague when it comes to giving advice on restricting the entrances to tunnel traps. It shows no fewer than six photos of sticks stuck in the ground , purporting to restrict the entrances. One photo shows a mustelid caught in a trap, its body lying between the sticks which, in that instance, are set wide enough apart for three of the target species to have marched in side by side!. Another photo shows heavy duty (?6″) nails hammered into the rail on which such a trap is mounted. The gaps appear to be wide and the only height restriction is the roof of the tunnel. There is no guidance on the critical dimensions of the spaces appropriate for whichever species might be the target. The indications in the photos are not much help in this respect.

    Unfortunately, we cannot rely on the authorities – whoever they might be in this instance – to set matters to rights. I recently read that it had been known for years that a particular trap, in common usage, was not regarded as humane for trapping stoats. However, it remained permissible to use it pending the arrival on the scene of something of a more humane nature – the introduction of which created a veritable dog’s breakfast in terms of what was permissible and where!

  11. 25 Lizzybusy
    June 21, 2019 at 10:52 pm

    Fenn, Springer and other spring traps like the one in the photo will become illegal for use in catching stoats in April 2020 when the UK government FINALLY complies with the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (almost 4 years after the deadline met by all the other signatories – Russia, Canada, USA, Europe, New Zealand). The DOC traps produced in New Zealand look likely to be the new replacement trap. These traps have a quicker kill rate and cause fewer catastrophic injuries (though the kill period and injuries allowed are still terrible). They are designed, through the use of manufactured tunnels with baffle barriers, to slow the animal down as it enters the trap and to position the animal’s head so that when it steps on the foot plate the bar slams down on the animal’s head or neck rather than it’s back. Of course, that assumes that the correct species will enter the tunnel! Estates will have to purchase the trap and the tunnel or a tunnel which matches the manufacturer’s instructions so the use of these home made tunnels will have to stop. So it looks like the estates may have a financial hit while they convert to alternative traps and tunnels.

    After April 2020, I will definitely be out looking for the remnants of these old tunnels and traps and reporting any breaches to the police. I strongly urge other readers to get ready to report any estates breaching the law by continuing to use these illegal traps for stoat.

    • 26 Boaby
      June 22, 2019 at 10:11 am

      And the police will do what…..?

      Report to the SSPCA you are far more likely to get a proper investigation.

      Trapping animals is about animal welfare

      • 27 Lizzybusy
        June 22, 2019 at 3:55 pm

        The SSPCA can’t go on private land without the landowner’s permission. They’ll pass it on to the police in any case.

    • 28 J .Coogan
      June 22, 2019 at 11:20 am

      Really interesting Lizzybusy, had a look at the Agreement, I take my hat off to you for making any sense of it seems totally confusing and contradictory to me. It states that it is an International agreement but Brexit and the EU are mentioned in some paragraphs, in your opinion will Brexit effect its implementation . Also do you know if it has been tested under Scots law or has it just been assumed to apply to Scotland as it does to England and Wales.

    • June 22, 2019 at 2:03 pm

      Very interesting Lizzybusy, thanks.
      I’ve read the various documents I’ve found on the internet, meaning to concentrate on Scotland.
      I read the following in a government publication:”As required by the Spring Trap Approval Orders, Fenn-type traps are set in tunnels. The trapper may need to modify or even build new trap tunnels depending on replacement trap design. However, one of the replacement trap suitability criteria set out in the implementation plan is that the replacement trap should be comparable in size to those traps currently used to allow setting in existing tunnels/locations.
      We do not have data on the proportion of tunnels which may or may not need modifying or the scale of the work involved, but at least one of the replacement traps which will be certified first will fit in the majority of existing tunnels.”
      This sounds as if one of the new traps could be set so as to allow almost anything to be trapped, as is the case at present, limited only by the size of the entrances.
      However, the Spring Traps Approval (Scotland) Amendment Order 2018 says:“The traps are to be used only for the purpose of killing or taking grey squirrels, mink, rats, stoats and weasels. Where used in a closed-end tunnel configuration, the trap may only be used for the purpose of killing or taking grey squirrels, mink, rats, stoats and weasels. Where used in a run-through configuration, the trap may be used only for the purpose of killing or taking rats, stoats and weasels. The trap must be set in a natural or artificial tunnel which is suitable for minimising the chances of capturing, killing or injuring non-target species whilst not compromising the killing or taking of target species. The tunnel may be closed – end or a run-through configuration. The tunnel must include an internal baffle arrangement that conforms to the type described in the Department of Conservation’s design specifications as set out in their trap use instructions published on the website of Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture on 1st January 2019. The trap must be positioned in relation to the baffle or baffles and to the side of the tunnel so that it conforms with those specifications.”
      Thus the new traps cannot be set in an old wire tunnel configuration in Scotland, and possibly elsewhere, unless someone knows differently.
      Could a gamekeeper say he was trying to catch rats and weasels, and I’m surprised a stoat/Pine Marten, etc was caught?

  12. 33 Lizzybusy
    June 22, 2019 at 4:06 pm

    I am sure many of the gamekeepers will try to claim this. The trouble for them is that they mustn’t set it where they know non-target animals frequent. They’ve been using these non-AIHTS compliant traps across streams, ditches etc for decades specifically to catch stoats and the set up is so time-consuming and expensive to put in place that they leave them in situ even when they’re not in use. They can’t now claim that they don’t know stoats are in these areas. I’ve been mapping out the traps in my area so I know where they’ve been setting traps for stoats. If they continue setting them in those locations they will be breaking the law. If other people can map out the traps in their areas there’ll be evidence of previous use of traps in these areas.

    It’d be great if large numbers of us could get mapping!

    • 34 Alan Cranston
      June 29, 2019 at 10:22 pm

      Lizzybusy, I hope you’ll set this down clearly on a blog or somewhere before April. There are ever more people out there on the moors monitoring, but the law is complex as it is and not (so it seems to me) destined to become simpler! But probably, come April, there will be loads of traps around which will be newly illegal. Good to be able to guide folk as to how to identify and report them.

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